Skip to main content

2020 saw opioid deaths in Erie County double from 2019

February 24, 2021
Jeff Slawson

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — According to the Erie County Department of Health, 2020 saw a massive step back in the fight against opioids. The county is reporting 232 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020. 17 cases are still pending, so that is roughly a 49% increase over 2019. County leaders says the pandemic is a major force behind this increase.

“One of the challenges during the pandemic is that it is hard to reach people one on one,” Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said.

According to the county, in 2020, 50% of all fatal overdoses were linked to drugs laced with fentanyl. It’s statistics like these that make access to care more vital than ever and when it comes to the confines of COVID-19, that help often needs to be virtual. Dr. Joshua Lynch and New York Matters try and offer exactly that.

“You can get a prescription, get linked to care and that is all virtual too,” Dr. Lynch said.

Dr. Lynch, a doctor of emergency medicine, says early points in the pandemic were particularly difficult with May, June and July reporting the most non-fatal overdoses.

“Primary care officers weren’t sure of what to do,” Dr. Lynch said, “what would be safe to have people come in for?”

New York Matters is “a virtual resource for people to receive medication-assisted treatment for opioid use”. This allows them to stay in their homes while still receiving proper help. Dr. Lynch says the increased use of this and other virtual programs could lead to a decrease in overdoses.

“Access to care should only get better and my hope is that we get back to where we were with things going down like in 2018, 2019 and we do that soon.”